<3 Less Than Three <3

For Valentine’s Day weekend (Saturday February 12th, 2011), my local paper, The Springfield Republican, ran the following piece featuring the work of my incredible, brilliant, amazing, extraordinary, fantastic, sarcastic, talented, smartypants, and just all-around awesome boss, the Mount Holyoke College archives librarian Patricia Albright…

‘Vintage Valentines on Display at Mount Holyoke College’


SOUTH HADLEY, MA – In a corner of the lower level of the library at Mount Holyoke College, a small but charming display of vintage valentines is a reminder that the valentine card industry in this country began in the mid-1800s with a Massachusetts woman. The public is invited to visit the display through Feb. 21, after which the fragile decorative papers will be returned to the library’s archives for storage.

Esther Howland, a Worcester native who was a student at Mount Holyoke in the 1840s, was inspired to start making valentines after receiving an elaborate valentine from England.

She wound up heading a business that brought in more than $75,000 a year.

Inside three glass cases, visitors to Mount Holyoke will see about 30 little valentines of all kinds – ornate and simple, sentimental and humorous, gilded and home-made, from different periods in this country, England and Bavaria.

Three of the cards come from a time when Howland still headed Howland’s New England Valentine Co. She sold the company in 1881 to Thomas C. Whitney.

Other valentines come from other sources. The collection was donated by Marjorie Eames in 1993, and includes cards donated by two former Mount Holyoke professors.

MHC Valentines Lori Satter

Lori Slatter (MHC Class of 2007) holds a pop-up valentine from the collection.

Cherubs, lace, lutes, urns, roses and gold foil are recurrent themes, especially among the early valentines.Some of them pull down and pop out, some are multi-layered, some still have the ribbons that were once used to hang them up.

One lacy concoction has a boy dressed like Little Lord Fauntleroy and a girl coiffed like Mary Pickford, standing under a clock whose numbers have been replaced by hearts.

In another multi-layered example, a rosy little boy in a sailor outfit is surrounded by everything but the kitchen sink, including a little house embedded in flowers and other sentimental images.

“The intricacy of design is fabulous,” said Lori Satter, the graduate student, intern and ’07 Mount Holyoke grad who curated the exhibit.

Her own favorite is a cartoon-like card in which a monkey dressed like a lady addresses a little dog, saying, “Don’t monkey with my heart!”

Another bracing contrast to the nostalgic cards is provided by a gold-and-pink “home-made” valentine, in which the sender has amended Shakespeare’s line “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance” to read “here’s raspberry” – and invites the recipient to “go jump in the lake.”

MHC Valentines Key To My Heart

A stylized valentine from the 1920s, complete with a removable "key" to her heart!


MHC Valentines Blackface 1

MHC Valentines Blackface 2

This valentine, with its blackface characters, demonstrates how far race relations have come in this country.


MHC Valentines Pansy Closed

MHC Valentines Pansy Open

A petal of this pansy twists open to reveal the message inside.


To check out these gorgeous vintage valentines in person, please visit the Mount Holyoke Archives & Special Collections on the first floor of Dwight Hall in South Hadley, Massachusetts. Admission is free. The exhibit runs until February 21st. It is open Mondays 1-5pm and Tuesday through Friday 9am to 5pm. For those who can’t make the trip, the exhibit website features some image scans (I know because I’ve worked on editing some — wicked cool) of the most popular valentines.

Oh, and also? Tell the people you love that you love them. Everyday. All the time. Until they tell you to shut up because you’ve crossed over that line from adorable to annoying. Because we just couldn’t make it in this world without a little help from our friends. *cues up Beatles music*

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